Spotlight: Chris White, Cisco
Having spent 17 years at Cisco in various roles, Chris White is now the vice president and general manager of the Sports and Entertainment Solutions Group. White is searching for ways to improve the overall experience for sports fans that will also benefit the teams and venues adopting technology. “We are not selling technology for technology’s sake,” he said. “We truly believe technology can enhance that fan experience and enhance our lives.” He spoke with staff writer Stephanie Brown.
■ New title: Vice president and general manager, Sports and Entertainment Solutions Group, Cisco.
■ Previous title: Vice president of global sales, Emerging Technologies Group.
■ First job: Sold weighing equipment.
■ College education: University of London, first-class honors degree in business studies.
■ Resides: Southern California.
■ Grew up: Northern England.
■ Executive most admired: John Chambers, Cisco, and Richard Branson, Virgin.
■ Brand most admired: Virgin.
■ Favorite vacation spot: Sea of Cortez, Mexico.
■ Last book read: “Abundance,” by Peter Diamandis.
■ Last movie seen: “The Road to El Dorado” — I’ve got young kids, so my movie watching is somewhat filtered by the oldest child, who is 14.
■ Favorite movie: “The Italian Job.”
■ Favorite musician/band: Genesis.
■ What is the biggest challenge in your new role?
We’ve got some work to do to roll up our sleeves in the industry and venues and get the owners to really embrace technology to improve the fan experience and player experience. Second, we went global last year as a business unit … but you have to pick your priorities and battles so that you don’t get spread too thin too quickly. And as a technology company we have got to hide the complexity from our consumers and customers because, guess what? Your expectation is you just walk into that stadium and it works. You don’t want to know.
■ What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
Many years ago I thought it was moving to the USA, but then I moved to India and that was a risk all around. I was very comfortable in California, but I realized the world is changing, the world is getting flatter, there are all these emerging markets coming out. So I went to help set up our second global headquarters with my wife and two kids and we had one of the most enriching experiences of our lives.
■ What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
Being married for 23 years through a professional career is quite an accomplishment nowadays, so I’m thankful for my wife. … But I guess the biggest professional accomplishment was actually going to India and helping open our globalization center.
■ What is your biggest professional disappointment?
Having to leave India early was probably my biggest professional disappointment. My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and we had to come home to deal with that. The good news is she is fine now, but we both hate leaving projects unfinished.
■ What is the one element you would like to see changed about the sports industry?
The use of technology in a way that can improve the fan experience and improve the business model as well. Show how teams and venues can drive more revenue for a fan.